Diplomatic flights

Being the head of a diplomatic mission in Ankara does not mean that you seat in the capital city all year long and enjoy chats with politicians and bureaucrats.

An ambassador to such a vast country as Turkey has a duty to travel and meet the people - Governors, Mayors, Deputies, business circles, civil society organisations, media and citizens - from East to West and North to South.
An EU ambassador has an additional duty which is to visit some of the 250 projects run jointly the European Commission and the Turkish administration as part of the “EU pre-accession programmes” which are implemented in parallel to the EU accession negotiations.
As a result, Turkish Airlines and its parent company, Anadolu Jet, are part and parcel of my diplomatic routine. The people at the Ankara and Istanbul THY lounges have become familiar faces, the 'Salata mı sandviç mi? question by the flight attendants has become a second nature (I fly Economy), even the aircrafts' names have become like friends (I flew several times on Zonguldak).
Although I fly more often to Istanbul than to any other places, I have visited some 15 provinces in my two years in Turkey. Getting to know a country also starts from the air, not just from paper files.
I cannot get tired of the view on the Prince Islands when landing from the South at Ataturk International or on the Bosphorus when landing from the North. Getting a grip on the size of Ankara when landing from the South at Esenboga was also a surprise to me. The sights of Ataturk Dam when landing at Adiyaman are also worth the trip.
The birds of Turkish and Anadolu have taken me to the sea breeze of Izmir, to the dry hot air of Adana, Antep, Mardin and Urfa, and to the wet and misty air of Trabzon. Everywhere, I have been greeted with warmth and empathy, and… a lot of questions about the EU and the EU accession process of Turkey. In addition to the more official conversations I have had, I will never forget the coffee house discussions I had in Hamsiköy (Trabzon) and in Serçin on the shores of Bafa Lake (Aydin) with the villagers and the muhtar, discussing their problems, discovering their deep knowledge of EU-Turkey affairs and their political wisdom.
From these and many other chats, I have come to realise that, over and above the politics of the EU accession process of Turkey, the so-called “EU agenda” has really become the Turkish citizens' agenda: food safety laboratories, cleaner air, justice, freedom of expression, women's and children's rights - to name a few - are all areas where EU standards mean 'improvement' to everybody.
As a passionate flyer, I have a regret though: being the representative of the EU's executive body in Turkey, I mostly fly within Turkey, to Brussels and, when on holidays, to my home town of Marseilles. So, I never get to fly Turkish Airlines' 'big birds' such as the Airbus 340 and 330.